Alkmaar Zaanstreek, better known as AZ Alkmaar or simply AZ, has selected an Artificial Intelligence-driven camera studio for creating its own TV productions situated within the AFAS stadium. AZ is a Dutch professional football club from Alkmaar and plays in the Eredivisie, the highest professional football league in the Netherlands.
The AZ team members’ selection of vPilot allows them to create professional studio productions without the need of camera people or an onsite director by utilising the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create shots and direct cameras.
The studio build was completed by Buckdesign, a local company based in the Netherlands but who also serve global customers. Buckdesign devised the studio layout, managed the installation of the vPilot system, and installed all the necessary lighting, backdrops, furniture and screen required for the studio build.
The vPilot system is developed by IQ Video Solutions, a brand of Mobile Viewpoint, which specialises in live streaming and AI solutions for broadcast. The vPilot system utilises commercially available PTZ cameras, which through the use of additional 3D scanners and the AI software can track people within the studio while utilising a virtual director to create the production with different shots and any necessary graphics, inserts and external feeds. The end-result is the creation of a completely automated professional production without the need of a camera team or director.
Michael Koster, commercial director at AZ, explains: “In the long-term, having our own studio for a variety of different broadcast applications is our plan, but with the current pandemic we have a high priority for keeping channels of communication open for our loyal fanbase while we play behind closed doors. The pre-match and post-match analysis that we live stream allows us to keep our fan engagement relevant and close. The longer-term plan is that we intend for the studio to be used by broadcasters and for other external communications, as well as a platform for a university course that we are setting up.”
Peter Buck, managing director at Buckdesign, comments: “AZ is a very well-known football team, not just as a top flight team in the Netherlands but across Europe and the world as an active participant in the Champions League. To be involved with AZ and the opportunity to build their studio in such a iconic environment is a great privilege for us.”
Michel Bias, managing director of Mobile Viewpoint and IQ Video Solutions, says: “We have been developing AI solutions for sports and studio productions for the last 18 months, and to have our local Eredivisie football team to implement our technology is a great honour for us and justifies many of the man-hours we have put into this evolving technology. We are pleased this co-operation with AZ and Buck will lead to great productions for AZ, their fans, sponsors and partners.”
Koster concludes: “[Utilising] the power of AI to operate the studio without the need of a camera team allows us to be flexible and quick to react, but also keeps our costs and media [requirements] down. The professional studio built by Buck is the professional appearance we want to give. We look forward to increasing our professional video output.”